Donald Trump believes St Louis’s top prosecutor committed an “egregious abuse of power” in charging a couple who displayed guns during a protest against racial injustice last month outside their mansion, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has said.
Ms McEnany appeared on Fox News and was asked about St Louis circuit attorney Kim Gardner’s decision to file felony unlawful use of a weapon charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey. The white couple in their early 60s are both lawyers.
The McCloskeys were not arrested but were issued summons to appear in court. Their first hearing is scheduled for August 31.
Ms Gardner, St Louis’s first black circuit attorney, said she will not seek jail time but will recommend a diversion programme such as community service.
Protesters were marching to the home of mayor Lyda Krewson when they veered on to a private street where the McCloskey’s 1.15 million dollar home sits.
Mark McCloskey came out with a semi-automatic rifle and his wife emerged with a semi-automatic handgun, according to a probable cause statement filed in support of the charges. No shots were fired, but Ms Gardner said their actions risked creating a violent situation.
Mark McCloskey on Monday night questioned why he and his wife were charged but protesters were not. “It’s a bizarre, upside-down world,” he said.
McEnany agreed: “Yes, he’s exactly right, this is an egregious abuse of power, is how the president described it by the prosecutor, to make this decision,” adding that the charges were “politically motivated nonsense”.
Missouri Republican attorney general Eric Schmitt filed a brief asking that the charges be dismissed under the state’s “castle doctrine”, which allows homeowners to protect their property with deadly force if necessary. Republican governor Mike Parson has said he is likely to pardon the couple.
The demonstration on June 28 was among many across the country in the nearly two months since George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
A police report said the couple heard a commotion and saw people break an iron gate marked with “No Trespassing” and “Private Street” signs. A protest leader, the Rev Darryl Gray, says the gate was open and protesters did not damage it.
The probable cause statement said that after Mark McCloskey came out with his rifle, his wife emerged, yelling at protesters to “go” and pointing her gun at them.
Protesters feared “being injured due to Patricia McCloskey’s finger being on the trigger, coupled with her excited demeanour”, the statement said.
Mr Parson defended the McCloskeys, saying: “If you had a mob coming toward us, whether they tore down a gate or not, when they come on your property, they don’t have a right to do that in an aggressive manner.”
A Democratic legislator who was at the protest said in a statement that no one stepped on to the McCloskeys’ property or threatened them.
“Contrary to what Governor Parson said Monday evening on The Hannity Show, we were not some bloodthirsty, rampaging mob,” Rasheen Aldridge said.
“We practised peaceful civil disobedience and had the threat of violence imposed upon us. His dishonest hypocrisy about the events of that night shows he has no interest in actual justice, only in exploiting this situation to mobilise his base.”